Written by: Tessa Buhrmann
When you’re a resort located in an exquisitely beautiful and pristine environment you had better have sustainability as a core ethos of your business model… and the Constance Ephelia Resort Seychelles certainly does. It was the first of six establishments to receive the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label (SSTL) that, thanks to a mutual recognition agreement with Fair Trade Tourism, can now be marketed under the Fair Trade Holiday brand.
You might think it’s tough finding time to “talk sustainability” when staying in paradise, but I was keen to find out how a resort of 300 rooms and a staff compliment of 250 manages to minimise its impact and be actively involved in conserving its environment. After a delicious breakfast, consisting of local fresh fruit, delicious crepes and great coffee, I chatted to Markus Ultsch-Unrath, the resort’s health, safety and environment projects manager. He is a delightful young man whose enthusiasm and commitment to overseeing the environmental sustainability at Constance Ephelia is very evident.
He tells me that the 120 hectare property, uniquely located between two exceptionally beautiful beaches and overlooking the Port Launay Marine National Park, Port Launay Mangrove Wetland Nature Reserve and the Morne Seychelles National Park, has an ethos of sustainability at its core and that the hotel was built with minimum disturbance to the vegetation and natural watercourses.
The mangroves were declared a RAMSAR site (a wetland site of international importance) in 2005 and are of great environmental importance, two thirds of which fall within the boundaries of the resort. This offers guests a wonderful opportunity to get up close with the seven species of mangrove trees by canoe or a guided wetland walk. “Mangroves are important as they are a breeding ground and a nursery for a lot of small fish species. They also stabilise the ground and reduce erosion.”
Markus and the team work closely with local NGO’s like ‘Sustainability for Seychelles’ to educate the local community in environmental matters such as the conservation of the mangroves, reduction of litter, illegal dumping and encroachment, as well as including them in regular clean-ups and reforestation initiatives. Educational visits to the mangroves, as well as the resort’s water treatment plant are included in the curriculum of local school children. A recent visit saw students lend a hand to the team in the replanting programme – needless to say much education and fun was had by all!
In addition to their conservation initiatives, the resort has a really comprehensive resource management system – energy, water and waste. One of the first tings I noticed when I walked into my suite was the beautiful glass bottle of Constance Ephelia water… an in-house desalination plant operates with a reverse osmosis system and UV-treatment, with their glass bottling plant providing approximately 800 bottles of fresh water per day for guests. The other noticeable thing is the LED lighting and the motion sensors that switch lights off and aircons to room temperature. What you don’t see is the heat exchange system that provides hot water for the entire resort (from the generators and chillers), the photovoltaic panels to supply green energy, the black and grey water treatment plant or recycling centre.
In finishing off our conversation about sustainability, Markus suggested I watch their YouTube video on ‘Environmental Sustainability’ for more details stressing that he “believes it’s the way of the future… and the only way”.
For more information on Contance Ephelia, other Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label establishments, as well as Fair Trade Tourism estabishments, visit www.fairtrade.travel